No. 20 Florida State had the hype, the talent and the stage to ring in the Willie Taggart era with a top 25 ACC win. But all the narratives that were ready to be written about Taggart -- the longtime FSU fan starting his dream job -- ignored the possibility that Monday night was going to be much more about Justin Fuente, defensive coordinator Bud Foster and a No. 19 Virginia Tech team that has reclaimed its position as a perennial ACC power.
Virginia Tech's 24-3 win against Florida State started with a beautiful offensive script from Fuente for quarterback Josh Jackson, which resulted in a 10-play touchdown drive on the first possession of the game. While experts downgraded the Hokies because of losses on the defensive side of the ball, the group that showed up on Monday night in Tallahassee played just as nasty as any other Bud Foster group we've seen in maroon over the last three decades.
There's no doubt about it, Virginia Tech is not going to take a step back and is absolutely a threat to Miami in the Coastal Division. Florida State, on the other hand, looks much less like a threat to Clemson after starting this sloppy start.
Here are three things to know about Virginia Tech's win, Florida State's loss and what it means for both teams:
1. A historic home game (for the wrong reasons): The last time Florida State was held to three points or fewer at home was Sept. 20, 2008, in a 12-3 loss to Wake Forest as the Demon Deacons went on to win the ACC. A record crowd -- at least at kickoff -- was on hand to witness it all, the entire frustrating affair with turnovers (5) and poor field position making it seem like Florida State was moving backwards all night long. It didn't help that in addition to losing the field position battle and giving up a ton of hidden yardage, Florida State also had a punt blocked in the end zone for a Hokies touchdown; a very Beamer Ball moment with the legendary Virginia Tech coach on hand for the game as an honorary captain.
2. FSU fans need to show some patience: It's going to be tough considering the positivity, excitement, expectations and how far fans fell from that high before kickoff to the sorrow of leaving the stadium. When adversity hit early, Florida State looked exactly like the team in its first year with a new coach, while Virginia Tech carried an advantage being in Year 3 with Fuente. The Seminoles may have been a little over-hyped and Virginia Tech was definitely overlooked, so this touchdown spread really was a toss-up of a game between two evenly-matched teams. One of those teams turned the ball over five times, the other not at all. Honestly, it speaks to the effort of Florida State's defense that the final margin was only 21 points.
3. Virginia Tech might be the dark horse in the ACC: The Hokies offense slowed after its hot start, and certainly let some opportunities get away later in the game, but much of that is a credit to Florida State's defense.
"We battled. Obviously in the third quarter we kept them pinned down. I was worried we let a couple few opportunities to get away, but I'm proud of our kids," Fuente told ESPN's Maria Taylor after the game.
The Hokies' own defense was strong enough to nearly re-order the way we view the ACC Coastal. If Miami isn't as great as we thought, and Virginia Tech is better, then maybe it's Fuente that's the biggest roadblock for Clemson making a fourth-straight College Football Playoff. Fuente and the Hokies took Clemson the distance in the 2016 ACC Championship Game in a 42-35 loss, and with that Miami game in Blacksburg, it's looking like we could see a rematch in 2018.
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